By  on December 29, 2005

NEW YORK - As other e-commerce sites loudly advertise after-Christmas sales, all is quiet at

The privately owned Italian Web site, which sells designer merchandise at a discount, was dressed in a very eclectic bow for the holidays, as it is throughout the year. In addition to a strong fashion roster that includes Martin Margiela, Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Lauren, Gucci and Prada, Yoox contains a range of artistic diversions intended to raise the shopping experience to a higher level.

Yoox will do $60 million in sales this year, a 50 percent increase over 2004, according to Federico Marchetti, co-founder. The average order rose to $300 during the holiday season, from $250 last year.

Marchetti, who receives at least one call or e-mail every two weeks from investors and private equity firms, predicted that Yoox would go public within 18 months. "By 2007, something will happen," he said. "I don't know where it will happen, in the U.S. or London or Milan. We've been approached by two giants in the U.S. e-commerce industry, but we're not interested. It's too early, and I think an IPO makes more sense."

In the meantime, Yoox is expanding its operations internationally. The company, which is based in Bologna, Italy, does business in Europe, North America and Japan. A U.S. office will open here in January with a seasoned team consisting of commercial director Andrea Posi, who was a business development consultant at Marni; head of operations Roberto Laynes, formerly an operations director at United Parcel Service; Maia Guarnaccia, who worked at Baldini Castoldi Dalai Editore and Vivienne Westwood Ltd., and chief financial officer Monique Romboli, whose experience includes Redwall Group and Frette U.S. There will be 100 employees in the New York office.

Marchetti expects to open an office in Tokyo in late 2006. These local offices will allow Yoox to improve customer service and logistics while sourcing locally.

Yoox, which calls itself "the never-ending store," features about 300 major designers. There's also vintage, up-and-coming designers, art books and home design. For Christmas, the site tested Alessi products - a personal favorite of Marchetti's. He called the results a success and said Yoox would launch the home design category with other high-end brands in 2006.Asked if there were any designers he'd like to see added to the site, Marchetti said, "My personal taste is more Japanese designers. In 2007, we will do Japanese designers. That's my goal. Yoox is built around my taste. I'm kind of the shopkeeper or store manager."

If Marchetti is Yoox's shopkeeper and store manager, then co-founder Alberto Biagetti is the architect of its visual style. The creative director sets the visual tone and curates special projects for the site. "When we started the Web site, it was important to make it visually interesting," said a spokeswoman. "There's always a woman on the home page. When you click on the woman, she takes you to a whole other world - the artistic component. It's important for our customers to understand what Yoox is. It's not a place where you just buy things at a discount, but a whole world of beautiful things. It's not just what makes us the money but also what makes us happy."

Examples of special projects orchestrated by Biagetti include "Only Yoox," a 30-second video with a message based on Samuel "Buck" Ram's celebrated song "Only You (And You Alone)," remixed with drum and bass, and Indian-techno elements. "It's about drawing from the past - a wonderful world - and adding fresh views and new frontiers," said a blurb on the site.

"Flowers" features gorgeous hybrids and electronically enhanced species photographed against black backgrounds, and "Dressing Ourselves" is a series of self-portrait dresses designed by Ettore Sottsass, Mokoto Sei Watanabe, Johanna Grawunder, Will Alsop and the Aluminum Group, among others. A description of the project reads: "It explores the way individuals express their inner character through clothing that will never be in or out of style."

"We try to fill the fashion world with something a bit more aspirational," the spokeswoman said. "People like to come and browse and they really feel like it's an entertainment. When we do advertising online, we try to incorporate all those images. We don't put clothing in ads. We put things that are creatively beautiful."

While the spokeswoman declined to say how much Yoox spends on the art, she said, "We dedicate quite a lot to these projects. Instead of doing a huge ad campaign in every magazine, we'd rather invest in this. It builds integrity for the brand and allows us to mix the worlds of fashion, architecture and design."

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